Aran Islands
Overview
 
The Aran Islands or The Arans (na hÁrainneacha — nə ˈhɑːrənʲəxə) are a group of three island
Island
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, cays or keys. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot , or holm...

s located at the mouth of Galway Bay
Galway Bay
Galway Bay is a large bay on the west coast of Ireland, between County Galway in the province of Connacht to the north and the Burren in County Clare in the province of Munster to the south. Galway city is located on the northeast side of the bay. It is about long and from to in breadth...

, on the west coast of Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. They constitute the barony
Barony (Ireland)
In Ireland, a barony is a historical subdivision of a county. They were created, like the counties, in the centuries after the Norman invasion, and were analogous to the hundreds into which the counties of England were divided. In early use they were also called cantreds...

 of Aran in County Galway
County Galway
County Galway is a county in Ireland. It is located in the West Region and is also part of the province of Connacht. It is named after the city of Galway. Galway County Council is the local authority for the county. There are several strongly Irish-speaking areas in the west of the county...

, Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. From west to east they are: Inishmore (Árainn Mhór/Inis Mór — ˈɑːrənʲ woːr or [ˈɪnɪɕ woːr ˈɑːrənʲ]), the largest; Inishmaan
Inishmaan
Inishmaan is the middle of the three main Aran Islands in Galway Bay on the west coast of Ireland. It is part of County Galway in the province of Connacht. Inishmaan has a population of about 160, making it the smallest of the Aran Islands in terms of population. It is also quieter and less...

 (Inis Meáin/Inis Meadhóin — [ˈɪnɪɕ mʲɑːn]), the second-largest; and Inisheer
Inisheer
Inisheer is the smallest and most eastern of the three Aran Islands in Galway Bay, Ireland.-Naming:The official name, , was brought into usage by the Ordnance Survey Ireland. It may be a compromise between the traditional local name and the previous official name . There is no Irish word...

 (Inis Thiar/Inis Oírr/Inis Oirthir — [ˈɪnɪɕ iːr] or [ˈɪnɪɕ siːr]), the smallest.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
The Aran Islands or The Arans (na hÁrainneacha — nə ˈhɑːrənʲəxə) are a group of three island
Island
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, cays or keys. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot , or holm...

s located at the mouth of Galway Bay
Galway Bay
Galway Bay is a large bay on the west coast of Ireland, between County Galway in the province of Connacht to the north and the Burren in County Clare in the province of Munster to the south. Galway city is located on the northeast side of the bay. It is about long and from to in breadth...

, on the west coast of Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. They constitute the barony
Barony (Ireland)
In Ireland, a barony is a historical subdivision of a county. They were created, like the counties, in the centuries after the Norman invasion, and were analogous to the hundreds into which the counties of England were divided. In early use they were also called cantreds...

 of Aran in County Galway
County Galway
County Galway is a county in Ireland. It is located in the West Region and is also part of the province of Connacht. It is named after the city of Galway. Galway County Council is the local authority for the county. There are several strongly Irish-speaking areas in the west of the county...

, Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. From west to east they are: Inishmore (Árainn Mhór/Inis Mór — ˈɑːrənʲ woːr or [ˈɪnɪɕ woːr ˈɑːrənʲ]), the largest; Inishmaan
Inishmaan
Inishmaan is the middle of the three main Aran Islands in Galway Bay on the west coast of Ireland. It is part of County Galway in the province of Connacht. Inishmaan has a population of about 160, making it the smallest of the Aran Islands in terms of population. It is also quieter and less...

 (Inis Meáin/Inis Meadhóin — [ˈɪnɪɕ mʲɑːn]), the second-largest; and Inisheer
Inisheer
Inisheer is the smallest and most eastern of the three Aran Islands in Galway Bay, Ireland.-Naming:The official name, , was brought into usage by the Ordnance Survey Ireland. It may be a compromise between the traditional local name and the previous official name . There is no Irish word...

 (Inis Thiar/Inis Oírr/Inis Oirthir — [ˈɪnɪɕ iːr] or [ˈɪnɪɕ siːr]), the smallest. Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 is the main spoken language on all three islands, and is the language used naming the islands and their villages and townlands.

Location and access

The approaches to the bay between the Aran Islands and the mainland are as follows:
  • North SoundAn Súnda ó Thuaidh (more accurately Bealach Locha Lurgan) lies between Inishmore and Lettermullen, County Galway.
  • Gregory's SoundSúnda Ghríoghóra (formerly known as Bealach na h-Áite) lies between Inishmore and Inishmaan.
  • Foul SoundAn Súnda Salach (formerly known as Bealach na Fearbhaighe) lies between Inishmaan and Inisheer.
  • South SoundAn Súnda ó Dheas (formerly known as Bealach na Fínnise) lies between Inisheer and County Clare.

Geology

The islands' geology is mainly karst
KARST
Kilometer-square Area Radio Synthesis Telescope is a Chinese telescope project to which FAST is a forerunner. KARST is a set of large spherical reflectors on karst landforms, which are bowlshaped limestone sinkholes named after the Kras region in Slovenia and Northern Italy. It will consist of...

 limestone and is thus closely related to The Burren
Burren
Burren can refer to:*The Burren, a karst landscape in County Clare, Ireland*Burren, County Down, a village in Northern Ireland*Burren College of Art, an art college in Ballyvaughan, County Clare, Ireland*Burrén and Burrena, twin hills in Aragon, Spain...

 in Co. Clare (to the east), not the granites of Connemara
Connemara
Connemara is a district in the west of Ireland consisting of a broad peninsula between Killary Harbour and Kilkieran Bay in the west of County Galway.-Overview:...

 to the north. This is most obvious in the construction of the walls around the fields.

The limestones date from the Visean
Viséan
The Visean, Viséan or Visian is an age in the ICS geologic timescale or a stage in the stratigraphic column. It is the second stage of the Mississippian, the lower subsystem of the Carboniferous. The Visean lasted from 345.3 ± 2.1 to 328.3 ± 1.6 Ma...

 period (Lower Carboniferous), formed as sediments in a tropical sea approximately 350 million years ago, and compressed into horizontal strata with fossil corals, crinoids, sea urchins and ammonites.
Glaciation following the Namurian
Namurian
The Namurian is a stage in the regional stratigraphy of northwest Europe with an age between roughly 326 and 313 Ma . It is a subdivision of the Carboniferous system or period and the regional Silesian series. The Namurian is named for the Belgian city and province of Namur where strata of this age...

 phase facilitated greater denudation. The result is that the Aran islands are one of the finest examples of a Glacio-Karst
KARST
Kilometer-square Area Radio Synthesis Telescope is a Chinese telescope project to which FAST is a forerunner. KARST is a set of large spherical reflectors on karst landforms, which are bowlshaped limestone sinkholes named after the Kras region in Slovenia and Northern Italy. It will consist of...

 landscape in the world. The effects of the last glacial period (the Midlandian) are most in evidence, with the islands overrun by ice during this glaciation. The impact of earlier Karstification (solutional erosion) has been eliminated by the last glacial period. So any Karstification now seen dates from approximately 10,000 years ago and the island Karst is thus recent.

Solutional processes have widened and deepened the grykes of the limestone pavement. Pre-existing lines of weakness in the rock (vertical joints) contribute to the formation of extensive fissures separated by clints (flat pavement like slabs). The rock karstification facilitates the formation of sub-terrainean drainage.

Huge boulders up to 25 metres (82 ft) above the sea at parts of the west facing cliffs have been shown  to be sometimes an extreme form of storm beach
Storm beach
A storm beach is a beach affected by particularly fierce waves, usually with a very long fetch. The resultant landform is often a very steep beach composed of rounded cobbles, shingle and occasionally sand...

, cast there by giant waves that occur on average once per century, though more are the conseequence of glacial erratic
Glacial erratic
A glacial erratic is a piece of rock that differs from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests. "Erratics" take their name from the Latin word errare, and are carried by glacial ice, often over distances of hundreds of kilometres...

s.

Climate and agriculture

The islands have an unusually temperate climate. Average air temperatures range from 15°C in July to 6°C in January. The soil temperature does not usually drop below 6°C (end 2010 recorded a prolonged period of snow, the first in living memory). Since grass will grow once the temperature rises above 6°C, this means that the island (like the neighbouring Burren
Burren
Burren can refer to:*The Burren, a karst landscape in County Clare, Ireland*Burren, County Down, a village in Northern Ireland*Burren College of Art, an art college in Ballyvaughan, County Clare, Ireland*Burrén and Burrena, twin hills in Aragon, Spain...

) has one of the longest growing seasons in Ireland or Britain, and supports diverse and rich plant growth.
Late May is the sunniest time, and also likely the best time to view flowers, with the gentians and avens peaking (but orchid species blooming later).

Flora and Fauna

The islands supports arctic
Arctic
The Arctic is a region located at the northern-most part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost...

, Mediterranean and alpine
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

 plants side-by-side, due to the unusual environment. Like the Burren, the Aran islands are renowned for their remarkable assemblage of plants and animals.
The grikes (crevices) provide moist shelter, thus supporting a wide range of plants including dwarf shrubs. Where the surface of the pavement is shattered into gravel, many of the hardier Arctic or Alpine plants can be found. But when the limestone pavement is covered by a thin layer of soil, patches of grass are seen, interspersed with plants like the gentian and orchids.
Notable insects present include the butterfly the Pearl-bordered Fritillary
Pearl-bordered Fritillary
The Pearl-bordered Fritillary is a butterfly of the Nymphalidae family.It is orange with black spots on the upperside of its wing and has a wingspan of 38–46 mm. On the underside of the wings there is a row of silver pearly markings along the edge, which give the species its name...

 Boloria euphrosyne, Brown Hairstreak
Brown Hairstreak
The Brown Hairstreak is a butterfly in the family Lycaenidae. The range includes most of the Palaearctic.-Subspecies:...

 Thecla betulae, Marsh Fritillary
Marsh Fritillary
The Marsh Fritillary, Euphydryas aurinia, is a butterfly of the Nymphalidae family.It is widespread in the Palaearctic region from Ireland in the West to Yakutia in the East, and to North-west China and Mongolia in the South.E. aurinia is represented by many subspecies.The most widely accepted...

 Euphydryas aurinia and Wood White Leptidea sinapis; the moths, the Burren Green
Calamia tridens
The Burren Green is a moth of the Noctuidae family. It is found in Europe.The wingspan is 37-42 mm. The length of the forewings is 17-18 mm. The moth flies in one generation from late June to September ....

 Calamia tridens, Irish Annulet Odontognophos dumetata and Transparent Burnet Zygaena purpuralis; and the hoverfly Doros profuges.

Traditional life and Irish language

On the cliff tops, ancient forts such as Dún Aengus on Inishmór and Dún Chonchúir on Inishmaan are some of the oldest archaeological remains in Ireland. A lacework of ancient stone walls (1600 km or 994.2 mi in all) enfolds all three islands to contain local livestock. Also found are early clocháns (dry-stone beehive huts from the early-Christian period). Enda of Aran
Enda of Aran
Saint Enda of Aran is an Irish saint in the Roman Catholic Church. His feast day is March 21.-Overview:...

, the founded the first true Irish Monastery
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 near Killeany (Cill Éinne or Church of Enda). In time there were a dozen monasteries on Inishmór alone. Many Irish saints had some connection with Aran: St. Brendan was blessed for his voyage there; Jarlath of Tuam, Finnian of Clonard
Finnian of Clonard
Saint Finnian of Clonard , or Finian, 'Fionán' or 'Fionnán' in Irish, was one of the early Irish monastic saints, who founded Clonard Abbey in modern-day County Meath. The Twelve Apostles of Ireland studied under him...

, and St. Columba called it the "Sun of the West."

The islands were first populated in larger numbers probably at the time of the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland
Cromwellian conquest of Ireland
The Cromwellian conquest of Ireland refers to the conquest of Ireland by the forces of the English Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Cromwell landed in Ireland with his New Model Army on behalf of England's Rump Parliament in 1649...

 in the mid 17th century, when the Catholic population of Ireland had the choice of going "to hell or to Connacht
Connacht
Connacht , formerly anglicised as Connaught, is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the west of Ireland. In Ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for...

". Many fled to the numerous islands off the west coast of Ireland where they adapted themselves to the raw climatic conditions, developing a survival system of total self-sufficiency. Their methods included mixing layers of sand and seaweed on top of rocks to create fertile soil, a technique used to grow potatoes and other vegetables. The same seaweed method also provided grazing grass within stone-wall enclosures for cattle and sheep, which in turn provided wool and yarn to make handwoven trousers, skirts and jackets, hand-knitted sweater
Sweater
A sweater, jumper, pullover, sweatshirt, jersey or guernsey is a garment intended to cover the torso and arms. It is often worn over a shirt, blouse, T-shirt, or other top, but may also be worn alone as a top...

s, shawl
Shawl
A shawl is a simple item of clothing, loosely worn over the shoulders, upper body and arms, and sometimes also over the head. It is usually a rectangular or square piece of cloth, that is often folded to make a triangle but can also be triangular in shape...

s, caps, and hide shoes. The islanders also constructed unique boats for fishing, building their thatched cottages from the materials available or trading with the mainland.

The Aran Islands are an official Gaeltacht
Gaeltacht
is the Irish language word meaning an Irish-speaking region. In Ireland, the Gaeltacht, or an Ghaeltacht, refers individually to any, or collectively to all, of the districts where the government recognises that the Irish language is the predominant language, that is, the vernacular spoken at home...

, which gives full official status to Irish as the medium of all official services including education. An unusually high rate of Irish-language monolingualism was found among senior natives until the end of the 20th century due in large part to the isolating nature of the traditional trades practised and the natural isolation of the islands in general from mainland Ireland over the course of the Islands' history. Young Islanders can take their leaving examination at 18 on the islands and then most leave for third level education. Many blame the decline of Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 speaking among young members of the island community on English-language television, available since the 1960s; furthermore, many younger islanders leave for the mainland when they come of age.

Transport

Year round ferry services exist, but it should be noted that all ferries are passenger only, with no car ferry available. Although ferry services operate year round, none presently operate from Galway Harbour, and only Aran Island Ferries operate a year round service from Rossaveal
Rossaveal
Ros an Mhíl or Ros a' Mhíl is a Gaeltacht village in the Connemara area of County Galway, Ireland. It is the main ferry port for the Aran Islands in Galway Bay...

 in County Galway
County Galway
County Galway is a county in Ireland. It is located in the West Region and is also part of the province of Connacht. It is named after the city of Galway. Galway County Council is the local authority for the county. There are several strongly Irish-speaking areas in the west of the county...

, connected by a bus service from Galway city
Galway
Galway or City of Galway is a city in County Galway, Republic of Ireland. It is the sixth largest and the fastest-growing city in Ireland. It is also the third largest city within the Republic and the only city in the Province of Connacht. Located on the west coast of Ireland, it sits on the...

.

Aer Arann
Aer Arann
Aer Arann is a regional airline based in Dublin, Ireland. Aer Arann operates scheduled services from Ireland and the Isle of Man to destinations in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and France, with a fleet of 18 aircraft. Aer Arann has expanded from a single aircraft to Ireland's third largest airline...

 operate an air service from all three islands to Inverin
Inverin
Indreabhán is a Gaeltacht village between Spiddal and Casla in County Galway, Ireland. Inverin is more strongly Irish-speaking than Spiddal, partly due to fewer commuters from Galway living there. There are a number of Irish-language summer colleges in the area, most notably Coláiste Lurgan and...

 which has connecting buses from Galway city. See Inishmore Airport

Ferries are also available to the Aran Islands from Doolin in County Clare (Seasonal April 1 - Oct 31st).
Information on the Aran Islands website.

A road network exists on each of the islands and a speed limit of 50 km/h applies. Cars on the islands are exempt from road-worthiness testing.

Visitors and attractions

Visitors come in large numbers, particularly in the summer time. There are several Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 forts and attractions on the islands, including:
  • Dun Aengus
    Dún Aengus
    Dún Aonghasa is the most famous of several prehistoric forts on the Aran Islands, of County Galway, Ireland. It is located on Inishmore at the edge of an approximately 100 metre high cliff....

     (Dún Aonghasa, Aran Islands Dialect: dūn aŋgəs) is an Iron Age fort situated on the edge of a cliff at a height of 100 metres (328.1 ft) overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on Inishmore. It consists of a series of concentric circular walls, the innermost; the citadel encloses an area approximately 50 meters in diameter with 4m thick walls of stone
  • Black Fort (Dún Dúchathair
    Dún Dúchathair
    Dún Dúchatair is a large fort on the Aran Islands. It is now, thanks to erosion, situated on a rocky promontory that stretches out into the sea. On its outer side there are large walls, reaching 6 meters high and 5 meters deep. On the inside are the ruins of various rooms possibly "beehive" huts...

    )
  • O'Brien's Castle on Inis Oírr
    Inisheer
    Inisheer is the smallest and most eastern of the three Aran Islands in Galway Bay, Ireland.-Naming:The official name, , was brought into usage by the Ordnance Survey Ireland. It may be a compromise between the traditional local name and the previous official name . There is no Irish word...

     in the Aran Islands was built in the 14th century. The castle was taken from the O'Briens by the O'Flaherty clan of Connemara
    Connemara
    Connemara is a district in the west of Ireland consisting of a broad peninsula between Killary Harbour and Kilkieran Bay in the west of County Galway.-Overview:...

     in 1582.
  • Teampull Bheanáin
    Teampull Bheanáin
    The oratory Tempull Bheanáin is situated near Kilronan on Inishmore, Aran, Galway Bay, Ireland. A unique example of Celtic church construction. it marks the location of the original monastic settlement founded by Benen, the disciple of St. Patrick, the national saint of Ireland...

     is considered the smallest church in the world and is notable for its orientation: north – south instead of east – west.
  • Teampall an Cheathrair Álainn has a holy well which inspired J. M. Synge
    John Millington Synge
    Edmund John Millington Synge was an Irish playwright, poet, prose writer, and collector of folklore. He was a key figure in the Irish Literary Revival and was one of the cofounders of the Abbey Theatre...

    's play "The Well of the Saints
    The Well of the Saints
    The Well of the Saints is a three-act play written by Irish playwright J. M. Synge, first performed at the Abbey Theatre by the Irish National Theatre Society in February, 1905...

    ".

Local artists

One of the major figures of the Irish Renaissance
Irish literature
For a comparatively small island, Ireland has made a disproportionately large contribution to world literature. Irish literature encompasses the Irish and English languages.-The beginning of writing in Irish:...

, Liam O'Flaherty
Liam O'Flaherty
Liam O'Flaherty was a significant Irish novelist and short story writer and a major figure in the Irish literary renaissance, born August 28, 1896, died September 7, 1984.-Biography:...

, was born in Gort na gCapall, Inishmore, on August 28, 1896. Máirtín Ó Díreáin
Máirtín Ó Direáin
Máirtín Ó Direáin born in Sruthán on Inismór in the Aran Islands was an Irish language poet.The son of a small-farmer, Máirtín Ó Direáin spoke only Irish until his mid-teens. He worked as a civil servant from 1928 until 1975...

, one of the most eminent poets in the Irish language
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

, was also from Inishmore.

Visiting artists

The islands have had an influence on world literature and arts disproportionate to their size. The unusual cultural and physical history of the islands has made them the object of visits by a variety of writers and travellers who recorded their experiences. Beginning around the late 19th Century, many Irish writers travelled to the Aran Islands; Lady Gregory, for example, came to Aran in the late nineteenth century to learn Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

. At the turn of the century and throughout his life one of Ireland's leading artists, Seán Keating
Seán Keating
Seán Keating was an Irish romantic-realist painter who painted some iconic images of the Irish War of Independence and of the early industrialization of Ireland...

, spent time every year on the islands translating on to canvas all the qualities that make the inhabitants of these Atlantic Islands so unusual and in many respects remarkable.
Many wrote of their experiences in a personal vein, alternately casting them as narratives about finding, or failing to find, some essential aspect of Irish culture that had been lost to the more urban regions of Ireland. A second, related kind of visitor were those who attempted to collect and catalog the stories and folklore of the island, treating it as a kind of societal "time capsule
Time capsule
A time capsule is an historic cache of goods or information, usually intended as a method of communication with future people and to help future archaeologists, anthropologists, or historians...

" of an earlier stage of Irish culture. Visitors of this kind differed in their desires to integrate with the island culture, and most were content to be considered observers. The culmination of this mode of interacting with the island might well be Robert J. Flaherty
Robert J. Flaherty
Robert Joseph Flaherty, F.R.G.S. was an American filmmaker who directed and produced the first commercially successful feature length documentary film, Nanook of the North...

's 1934 classic documentary Man of Aran
Man of Aran
Man of Aran is a fictional documentary by Robert J. Flaherty about life on the Aran Islands off the western coast of Ireland. It portrays characters living in premodern conditions, documenting their daily routines such as fishing off high cliffs, farming potatoes where there is little soil, and...

.

One might consider John Millington Synge
John Millington Synge
Edmund John Millington Synge was an Irish playwright, poet, prose writer, and collector of folklore. He was a key figure in the Irish Literary Revival and was one of the cofounders of the Abbey Theatre...

's The Aran Islands as a work that straddles these first two modes, it being both a personal account and also an attempt at preserving information about the pre- (or a-) literate Aran culture in literary form. The motivations of these visitors are best exemplified by W. B. Yeats
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

' advice to Synge: "Go to the Aran Islands, and find a life that has never been expressed in literature."

In the second half of the twentieth century, up until perhaps the early 1970s, one sees a third kind of visitor to the islands. These visitors came not necessarily because of the uniquely "Irish" nature of the island community, but simply because the accidents of geography and history conspired to produce a society that some found intriguing or even beguiling and that they wished to participate in directly. At no time was there a single "Aran" culture: any description is necessarily incomplete and can be said to apply completely only to parts of the island at certain points in time. However, visitors that came and stayed were mainly attracted to aspects of Aran culture such as:
  1. Isolated from mainstream print and electronic media, and thus reliant primarily on local oral tradition
    Oral tradition
    Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

     for both entertainment and news.
  2. Rarely visited or understood by outsiders.
  3. Strongly influenced in its traditions and attitudes by the unusually savage weather of Galway Bay
    Galway
    Galway or City of Galway is a city in County Galway, Republic of Ireland. It is the sixth largest and the fastest-growing city in Ireland. It is also the third largest city within the Republic and the only city in the Province of Connacht. Located on the west coast of Ireland, it sits on the...

    .
  4. In many parts characterized by subsistence, or near-subsistence, farming and fishing.
  5. Adapted to the absence of luxuries that many parts of the Western world had enjoyed for decades and in some cases, centuries.


For these reasons, the Aran Islands were "decoupled" from cultural developments that were at the same time radically changing other parts of Ireland and Western Europe. Though visitors of this third kind understood that the culture they encountered was intimately connected to that of Ireland, they were not particularly inclined to interpret their experience as that of "Irishness." Instead, they looked directly towards ways in which their time on the islands put them in touch with more general truths about life and human relations, and they often took pains to live "as an islander," eschewing help from friends and family at home. Indeed, because of the difficult conditions they found – dangerous weather, scarce food – they sometimes had little time to investigate the culture in the more detached manner of earlier visitors. Their writings are often of a much more personal nature, being concerned with understanding the author's self as much as the culture around him.

This third mode of being in Aran died out in the late 1970s due in part to the increased tourist traffic and in part to technological improvements made to the island, that relegated the above aspects to history. A literary product of this third kind of visitor is An Aran Keening, by Andrew McNeillie, who spent a year on Aran in 1968. Another, Pádraig Ó Síocháin, a Dublin author and lawyer, learning to speak Gaelic
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 to the fluency of an islander became inextricably linked to the Aran handknitters
Knitting
Knitting is a method by which thread or yarn may be turned into cloth or other fine crafts. Knitted fabric consists of consecutive rows of loops, called stitches. As each row progresses, a new loop is pulled through an existing loop. The active stitches are held on a needle until another loop can...

 and their Aran Sweater
Aran sweater
The Aran sweater is a style of jumper/sweater that takes its name from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. It is sometimes known as a fisherman sweater...

s, extensively promoting their popularity and sale around the world for nearly forty years.

A fourth kind of visitor to the islands, still prominent today, comes for spiritual reasons often connected to an appreciation for Celtic Christianity
Celtic Christianity
Celtic Christianity or Insular Christianity refers broadly to certain features of Christianity that were common, or held to be common, across the Celtic-speaking world during the Early Middle Ages...

 or more modern New Age
New Age
The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational...

 beliefs, the former of which finds sites and landscapes of importance on the islands. Finally, there are many thousands of visitors who come for broadly touristic reasons
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

: to see the ruins, hear Irish spoken (and Irish music played) in the few pubs on the island, and to experience the often awe-inspiring geology of cliffs. Tourists today far outnumber visitors of the four kinds discussed above. Tourists and visitors of the fourth kind, however, are under-represented as creators of literature or art directly connected to the island; there are few ordinary "travelogues" of note, perhaps because of the small size of the islands, and there are no personal accounts written about Aran that are primarily concerned with spirituality. Tim Robinson's Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage (1986) and Stones of Aran: Labyrinth (1995), and his accompanying detailed map of the islands, are another resource on the Aran Islands. Robinson's work is an exhaustive, but not exhausting, survey of the Aran geography and its influence on Aran culture from the Iron Age up to recent times. Robinson also has written, and continues to write, about the Connemara region that faces the Aran Islands on the Galway mainland.

Aran Island sweater


The islands are the home of the Aran sweater
Aran sweater
The Aran sweater is a style of jumper/sweater that takes its name from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. It is sometimes known as a fisherman sweater...

, which has gained worldwide appeal during the course of the 20th century. Much of its popularity can be attributed to the enthusiasm and engagement of Pádraig Ó Síocháin, who deeply cherished the islands, their people and their native tradition
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

s after he first arrived there in the 1950s, recording life as it was then on endless reels of film.

Aran knitting is often falsely associated with the Scottish
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 Isle of Arran
Isle of Arran
Arran or the Isle of Arran is the largest island in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland, and with an area of is the seventh largest Scottish island. It is in the unitary council area of North Ayrshire and the 2001 census had a resident population of 5,058...

.

Aran currach

The (modern) Aran version of the lightweight boat called the currach
Currach
A Currach is a type of Irish boat with a wooden frame, over which animal skins or hides were once stretched, though now canvas is more usual. It is sometimes anglicised as "Curragh". The construction and design of the currach is unique to the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland, with variations in...

(Aran Islands Dialect: kørəx, korəx) is made from canvas stretched over a sparse skeleton of thin laths, then covered in tar. It is designed to withstand the very rough seas that are typical of islands that face the open Atlantic. Indeed, it is said that the Aran fishermen would not learn to swim, since they would certainly not survive any sea that swamped a currach and so it would be better to drown quickly. Despite the undoubted strength of these boats, they are very vulnerable to puncture.

The islanders were always totally self sufficient. In calmer weather the currachs would go out and spend the night fishing under the Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are located in the parish of Liscannor at the south-western edge of the Burren area near Doolin, which is located in County Clare, Ireland....

, returning after dawn full with fish. Nowadays they are only used inshore, tending lobster-pots. More modern versions are still built for racing at the many local regatta
Regatta
A regatta is a series of boat races. The term typically describes racing events of rowed or sailed water craft, although some powerboat race series are also called regattas...

s, or "Cruinnithe" up and down the west coast of Ireland during the summer months.

Conventional shoes cannot be worn, so the fishermen wear soft calf-skin moccasin
Moccasin
A Moccasin is a form of shoe worn by Native Americans, as well as by hunters, traders, and settlers in the frontier regions of North America.Moccasin may also refer to:* Moccasin , an American Thoroughbred racehorse-Places:...

s called pampooties, made of goatskin or cowskin.

Sport

Some of the limestone sea cliffs have attracted interest from rock-climbers
Climbing
Climbing is the activity of using one's hands and feet to ascend a steep object. It is done both for recreation and professionally, as part of activities such as maintenance of a structure, or military operations.Climbing activities include:* Bouldering: Ascending boulders or small...

.
Diving is possible.

Popular culture

  • John Millington Synge
    John Millington Synge
    Edmund John Millington Synge was an Irish playwright, poet, prose writer, and collector of folklore. He was a key figure in the Irish Literary Revival and was one of the cofounders of the Abbey Theatre...

     wrote a book-length journal, The Aran Islands, which was completed in 1901 and published in 1907.
  • The Aran Islands were mentioned in James Joyce
    James Joyce
    James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

    's short story The Dead
    The Dead (short story)
    "The Dead" is the final short story in the 1914 collection Dubliners by James Joyce. It is the longest story in the collection and is often considered the best of Joyce's shorter works. At 15,672 words it has also been considered a novella....

    (1914) as a destination where native Irish is spoken.
  • The 1934 documentary film Man of Aran
    Man of Aran
    Man of Aran is a fictional documentary by Robert J. Flaherty about life on the Aran Islands off the western coast of Ireland. It portrays characters living in premodern conditions, documenting their daily routines such as fishing off high cliffs, farming potatoes where there is little soil, and...

    .
  • Seamus Heaney
    Seamus Heaney
    Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. He lives in Dublin. Heaney has received the Nobel Prize in Literature , the Golden Wreath of Poetry , T. S. Eliot Prize and two Whitbread prizes...

    's first book of poems, Death of a Naturalist
    Death of a Naturalist
    Death of a Naturalist is a collection of poems written by Irish Nobel winner Seamus Heaney. The collection was Heaney's second major published volume, and includes ideas which he had presented at meetings of The Belfast Group...

    (1966), contains a poem entitled "Lovers on Aran".
  • The 1984 hit song The Riddle
    The Riddle
    The Riddle may refer to: In music* The Riddle, a 1959 jazz album by Dave Brubeck* The Riddle , a 1984 rock album by Nik Kershaw* "The Riddle ", a song by Nik Kershaw in 1984...

    by Nik Kershaw
    Nik Kershaw
    Nik Kershaw is an English singer-songwriter. The one time jazz-funk guitarist was a mid-1980s teen idol. His 50 weeks on the UK Singles Chart in 1984 beat all other soloists...

     includes the line, "Near a tree by a river there's a hole in the ground where an old man of Aran goes around and around."
  • The Aran Islands found fame and experienced a boost in tourism since being featured in the television comedy Father Ted
    Father Ted
    Father Ted is a comedy series set in Ireland that was produced by Hat Trick Productions for British broadcaster Channel 4. Written jointly by Irish writers Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan and starring a predominantly Irish cast, it originally aired over three series from 21 April 1995 until 1 May...

    . The show, which was aired from April 1995 until May 1998, is set on the fictional Craggy Island, but real local sights such as the shipwreck of the steam trawler Plassey
    MV Plassy
    MV Plassy, or Plassey, was a steam trawler launched in late 1940 and named HMS Juliet in 1941. She was renamed Peterjon and converted to a cargo vessel in 1947. She was acquired by the Limerick Steamship Company in 1951 and renamed Plassy . On her final voyage she was sailing through Galway Bay...

     feature in the opening sequence to the show. The island of Inishmore hosted a Friends of Ted festival in 2007.
  • The 1996 play, The Cripple of Inishmaan
    The Cripple of Inishmaan
    The Cripple of Inishmaan is a dark comedy by Martin McDonagh who links the story to the real life filming of the documentary Man of Aran....

    by Martin McDonagh
    Martin McDonagh
    Martin McDonagh is an Irish-British playwright, filmmaker, and screenwriter. Although he has lived in London his entire life, he is considered one of the most important living Irish playwrights.-Life:...

    , is set on the Aran Islands. This popular play, which is shown all over the world, is the first play in The Aran Islands Trilogy, in which it is followed by the 2001 play, The Lieutenant of Inishmore (see below), and the unpublished play The Banshees of Inisheer.
  • The 1997 romantic comedy The MatchMaker
    The MatchMaker (1997 film)
    The MatchMaker is a 1997 film comedy film set in Ireland.-Plot:Marcy Tizzard is assistant to Senator John McGlory from Boston, Massachusetts...

    with Janeane Garofalo
    Janeane Garofalo
    Janeane Garofalo is an American stand-up comedian, actress, political activist and writer. She is the former co-host on the now defunct Air America Radio's The Majority Report. Garofalo continues to circulate regularly within New York City's local comedy and performance art scene.-Early...

     is partially set on the Aran Islands.
  • The Lieutenant of Inishmore
    The Lieutenant of Inishmore
    The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a black comedy by playwright Martin McDonagh, first produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London in 2001.-Plot:...

    (2001) is a popular play written by Martin McDonagh
    Martin McDonagh
    Martin McDonagh is an Irish-British playwright, filmmaker, and screenwriter. Although he has lived in London his entire life, he is considered one of the most important living Irish playwrights.-Life:...

    , which was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company
    Royal Shakespeare Company
    The Royal Shakespeare Company is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon and plays regularly in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and on tour across...

     at The Other Place
    The Other Place (theatre)
    The Other Place was a black box theatre on Southern Lane, near to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. It was owned and operated by the Royal Shakespeare Company....

    , Stratford-upon-Avon
    Stratford-upon-Avon
    Stratford-upon-Avon is a market town and civil parish in south Warwickshire, England. It lies on the River Avon, south east of Birmingham and south west of Warwick. It is the largest and most populous town of the District of Stratford-on-Avon, which uses the term "on" to indicate that it covers...

    , on 11 April 2001. It also had a run on Broadway
    Broadway theatre
    Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

     in New York City
    New York City
    New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

     where it was nominated for five Tony awards, and now is played all over the world.
  • The last chapter of How to Die: or The Good Gatsby (2006), a humorous novel by Wm. Douglas Warren, is entitled "The Aran Islands" and is set almost entirely in Dún Aengus, although it is just referred to as "a round fort."
  • The 2009 CD Man Of Aran by the British band British Sea Power
    British Sea Power
    British Sea Power are an indie rock band based in Brighton, England, although three of the band members originally come from Kendal in Cumbria. Critics have likened their sound to a variety of groups, from The Cure and Joy Division to the Pixies and Arcade Fire. The band are famed for their live...

     features a modern soundtrack to the 1934 documentary. Some editions of the CD include a bonus DVD of the documentary with the band's new soundtrack.

See also

  • Places:
    • Inishmore - the largest and westernmost island
    • Inishmaan
      Inishmaan
      Inishmaan is the middle of the three main Aran Islands in Galway Bay on the west coast of Ireland. It is part of County Galway in the province of Connacht. Inishmaan has a population of about 160, making it the smallest of the Aran Islands in terms of population. It is also quieter and less...

       - the middle island
    • Inisheer
      Inisheer
      Inisheer is the smallest and most eastern of the three Aran Islands in Galway Bay, Ireland.-Naming:The official name, , was brought into usage by the Ordnance Survey Ireland. It may be a compromise between the traditional local name and the previous official name . There is no Irish word...

       - the smallest and easternmost island
    • Inis Beag
      Inis Beag
      Inis Beag is a remote island off the coast of Connemara, Ireland and near the Aran Islands. It contains a small, isolated Gaelic-speaking Irish Catholic community which cultural anthropologist John Cowan Messenger observed in his study "Sex and Repression in an Irish Folk Community." During the...

       - a small nearby island
    • Dún Aengus
      Dún Aengus
      Dún Aonghasa is the most famous of several prehistoric forts on the Aran Islands, of County Galway, Ireland. It is located on Inishmore at the edge of an approximately 100 metre high cliff....

       - a prehistoric fort
    • Teampull Bheanáin
      Teampull Bheanáin
      The oratory Tempull Bheanáin is situated near Kilronan on Inishmore, Aran, Galway Bay, Ireland. A unique example of Celtic church construction. it marks the location of the original monastic settlement founded by Benen, the disciple of St. Patrick, the national saint of Ireland...

       - an 11th century oratory
  • People:
    • John Millington Synge
      Synge
      Synge is the Irish writer John Millington Synge .Synge may also refer to:* Richard Laurence Millington Synge , British biochemist* John Lighton Synge , Irish mathematician and physicist...

    • Tim Robinson
  • Other:

Further reading

  • Die araner mundart, Franz Nikolaus Finck, Marburg 1899
  • Smuainte ar Árainn, Úna Ní Fhaircheallaigh, ar n-a cur amac do Connrad na Gaedilge, Dublin, 1902
  • The Aran Islands, John M. Synge, Elkin Mathews, London, 1907
  • Oileáin Árann, Mártan Ó Domhnaill, Muinntir C. S. Ó Fallamhain, Dublin, 1930
  • "History of the Aran Islands", T.V. O'Brien, 1945 (manuscript copies in Trinity College Dublin (#3198) and London Library)
  • The Aran Islands, Daphne Pochin Mould, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1972
  • Conamara Agus Arainn, 1880-1980, Gneithe den Stair Shoisialta, Micheal O'Conghaile, Clo Iar-Chonnachta Teo., Beal an Daingin, Conamara, 1988
  • Thatched Homes of the Aran Islands, An Teachin Ceanntui, Dara O'Connaola, Ceard Shiopa Inis Oirr Teo., 1988


External links

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